Channel Surfing


In what it says will foster the development of “new and innovative” types of both services and devices in the unlicensed arena, the FCC is proposing to put vacant broadcast spectrum to use.

The Federal Communications Commission proposed yesterday to let unlicensed devices ride on spectrum that is not being used by TV stations. The bands are seen as valuable because they enable further travel and better penetration into buildings than current spectrum used by wireless broadband services. Wireless tycoon Craig McCaw, through his Eagle River investment arm, obviously saw the value in such ITFS spectrum—which had been used for educational use primarily in the past—and bought up MMDS/ITFS spectrum leaser and service provider Clearwire a few weeks back.

As far as the FCC’s proposal, the catch is that operators interested would have to use unlicensed devices to incorporate smart radio features. This functionality, the FCC contends, would enable the device to sniff out only the TV channels that are not currently in use thereby preventing interference with current broadcasts.

“Allowing unlicensed operations in the TV bands could benefit wireless Internet service customers by extending the service range of current provider’s (WISPs) existing operations, particularly in rural and underserved areas,” the FCC stated. WISPs refers to Wireless Internet Service Providers.

As part of its proposal, the FCC categorized unlicensed devices into two groups: one designated for personal or portable devices, like Wi-Fi-enabled laptops. The other category, which could be a big boon to the smaller wireless operators, is fixed devices that would enable an operator to offer commercial wireless service.

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